Robert Varkonyi's mother and father came from Hungary. As we hear so often about immigrant parents, education for their offspring was a very big deal. They settled in a Queens neighborhood which had a reputation as an excellent school district. Robert would go on to graduate from MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The sports connection? He won the 2002 World Series of Poker main event.
And he's always had a warm spot in his heart for the New York City public schools.
Wednesday night, Varkonyi will be one of the headliners for a charity poker tournament to benefit TORCH (Together Our Resources Can Help). The program provides after-school activities and career training for "underserved" NYC public high school students.
Varkonyi is an enthusiastic TORCH supporter, but said the event itself should be a laid-back good time.
"I'll help them play a little bit," he said of those who will sit at his table. "We'll tell poker stories."
The TORCH Celebrity Texas Hold 'em Charity Poker Tournament's top prize is a $10,000 seat in the WSOP main event in Las Vegas. (In the charity format, players "buy in" to play, but no chips can be exchanged for cash.)
New York Giants lineman Adam Koets is among the handful of headliners.
"It's an easy avenue for us to help out," he said.